I like your socks
18 September 2006, 2:24 PM
There’s a sort of misconception running around—there! Get it! Quick! Damn, it got—there it goes!
Many people seem to think that having one’s sympathies with the descriptivists rather than the prescriptivists means that you can’t make fun of people’s mistakes in writing and speaking. True, the descriptivist is less likely to mock people for using hopefully to describe the speaker of the sentence, rather than the verb. The descriptivist can’t manage to get worked up over split infinitives, sentence-ending prepositions and the oxford comma. When faced with a common pronunciation of, oh, the word nuclear that does not conform to phonics, the descriptivist might quietly grind her teeth, but she is aware that worse things happen in war, and after all meaning is not being compromised.
Fortunately for the snarky descriptivist (and isn’t that a name for a blog—much better than Language Log, doncha think?), people make actual errors all the time. Not made-up errors, but honest-to-Betsy, flies undone, can’t-believe-I-said-that errors. Sometimes this takes the form of using the wrong one of a pair of Words Easily Confused
For instance? Why, Gentle Reader, what makes you think I had any particular thing in mind? Well, all right, just as an example, then, and only because you asked so nicely, and it’s a pleasure doing things for such polite Readers, I’ll mention that at the end of Changes afoot for downtown businesses, Karen A. Chase (who is quite nice, actually) quotes Billy Morrison and Kenneth Ober (both of whom are also quite nice) about the Morrison Gallery moving next door to the Ober Gallery. “‘We will compliment each other,’ they both said.”
I’m sure they will. After all, they are both very nice. In fact, YHB has been complimented by both Mr. Morrison and Mr. Ober. Coincidentally, both fellows said very nice things about YHB’s keen eye for art, sophisticated judgment and discerning taste. Now that I think about it, just about any time YHB has been in a commercial gallery, somebody has said something nice about my keen eye, sophisticated judgment and discerning taste. You know, Gentle Reader, if you are even in dire need of a compliment, you cannot do better than to dress as if you are just a bit more affluent than you are, go to a gallery, and say “I like this one.” It will turn out—surprise!—that you have a keen eye, sophisticated judgment and discerning taste.
Well, assuming that you are gesturing at a work of art for sale. If you are talking about the staff, you’re on your own.
Anyway, I think it’s swell that Mssrs Morrison and Ober have galleries next to each other, and will be able to spend any spare time when the customers are away honing those skills on each other. Particularly since the two galleries specialize in such different works of art, which I think makes the collections seem to fill each other’s gaps. I wonder if they thought of that, or if they did, why they didn’t mention it to Ms. Chase?
chazak, chazak, v’nitchazek,